About The Mad Traveler

The Short Story:

Kevin Revolinski is the author of several guidebooks including 60 Hikes Madison, Backroads and Byways of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide (formerly The Wisconsin Beer Guide: A Travel Companion). His travel memoir The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey is now in its fourth printing and has been translated into Korean and Turkish awaiting a 2012 release (hopefully). His articles and photography have appeared in many worldwide publications including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Sydney Morning Herald. He is an avid hiker, loves to cook, reads as much literature and nonfiction as possible, writes short stories, plays several musical instruments, speaks Spanish, less Italian, much less Turkish, and counts to ten in Thai… very, very slowly and with fingers to keep track. He’s never sure what he’s doing next — or even should be doing — and always welcomes suggestions which he’ll probably ignore after stewing on them for a long time.

In turns pessimist and optimist, misanthrope and humanist, he is The Mad Traveler with one leg of his compass pinned in Madison, Wisconsin (or is it Bangkok?) and the pencil end loose and scribbling all over the map. Part of him refuses to color inside the lines and that drives another part of him crazy. However, it’s not much of a drive, really more of a short putt.

See Kevin Revolinski’s resume and a few published clips.

The Not-As-Short Story:

I grew up like a lot of people with a house subscription to National Geographic Magazine. My grandmother renewed it every year for Christmas. I especially loved the maps in special issues. Nothing unusual about that; it is a fascinating magazine, especially for kids. Those yellow bound mags ended up boxed in the basement somewhere like a lot of hopes, dreams and fleeting aspirations.

In high school, in a tiny town in Central Wisconsin, I was fascinated by the foreign exchange students, picking up on whatever music or books they brought with them. But the idea of studying abroad always scared me and even in college I worried about missing something at home while living abroad. Rubbish.

Not until my mid-twenties did I venture out into the world of “abroad” and even then it was only south of the border. But it was on a slightly seat-of-the-pants volunteer trip into the state of Chihuahua, Mexico when I had my first “National Geographic” experience. Taking a couple days’ break from orphanage work, digging a foundation, and distributing donated medical supplies, we ventured deep into the Copper Canyon where we spent the night in a Tarahumara village. We had descended in the dark, our only views of the canyon being the headlights of the pickup truck we rode in sweeping through empty space like lighthouse beacons at every switchback.

I stepped from my tent the next morning and I was a tiny breathless thing in the middle of a deep beautiful world that directed all eyes to the heavens. Up and down the single dirt road along a nearby river paraded a mob of men, half drunk on homemade corn beer and stripped to their boxer shorts. Their bodies were covered with alternating lines of black and white mud creating patterns of bones and they danced about waving sticks to the sounds of an ad hoc marching band of an untuned guitar and improvised percussion instruments. They carried around an effigy, a flopping scarecrow of a Westerner with sunglasses and a cowboy hat and a large phallus fashioned from knotted red bandanas – Judas, we were told. We had arrived for a festival as old as the culture itself but passing as a Semana Santa event, a Catholicized version of a spring fertility ritual. I stood there along the stream of revelers, ignored by most but getting curious glances from some of the children, as I snapped away with a simple Pentax K-1000 and I felt a million miles and two universes away from a little town among dairy farms in Wisconsin – as if I had woken up on the pages of a National Geographic spread. It’s getting harder and harder to be the only traveler witnessing just about anything these days as the world has opened up in every corner not just to backpackers but to seriously commercialized tourism. But that dramatic moment of feeling like the discoverer has always stuck with me.

Many years and many jobs later, I have filled two oversized passports with wanderings and changing homes, and while I love to see as much of the world as possible and experience the magic of new places and new faces, there are times the wanderlust seems like a restless curse keeping me awake at nights in strange towns keenly aware of distant plane noises and the coyote howls of trains which remarkably have never run far from just about every one of my “permanent” homes since birth. I’m not sure there’s a cure, and if there is, I’m doubtful I would want it.

See Kevin Revolinski’s resume and a few published clips.

Subscribe to The Mad Traveler Online and Kevin’s travel blog

15 thoughts on “About The Mad Traveler

  • November 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm
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    Kevin,

    what a great pleasure to get your travel reports, mails etc. …..

    Its kinda funny: Turkey and Thailand….. some of our favorites. I have been lucky enough to travel all around Turkey when it was still safe and possible even in the Hakkari area. And Thailand…. what should I say, since 12 years one of my best friends (we met in Interlaken/Switzerland…. strange…. or fate :-)))) is Thai.

    I respect and share your comments and your point of view, your attitude….

    ….and your love for good beers (as my home town is Munich, haha!). Just hit the last day of the L.A. beer festival and had a great time at the pier in Redondo beach after a hard conference week in Vegas in October.

    Please keep on writing!
    See ya
    Chris

    P.S.: remember about our mails concerning Laem-Charoen at Meng Jai? I tried the Centralworld branch now 4 or 5 times…. food is pretty good, atmoshphere…. no way to compare to Meng Jai.
    Ever been to Sornthong Seafood near Carrefour (now I think its another big supermarket branch) near Rama IV? Or the Isaan seafood restaurant with the Tuk-Tuk-restroom on the road? I will try to find out about the last one…. have been there a couple of times… but you know it: food, drink, chat, party…. and you miss to write down the basics…. the best reason to return!

    Reply
    • November 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm
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      Hey Chris! I have yet to get to Munich. Some day! Hopefully Oktoberfest. After CentralWorld reopened we went to Laem-Charoen a few times. Still pretty good but definitely not much on atmosphere. We have never been to Sornthong and passed it 1000 times on the way home. One of these days. I do not know the Isaan place, do share!

      Are you feeling Turkey isn’t safe anymore? We were just back there this year (I am waaaaaaaay behind on blogging as usual). I still love the place, though it has changed tons since I lived there in ’97.

      Reply
      • December 31, 2011 at 7:31 am
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        Kevin,

        whenever you get to Munich – pls let me know…. well, Oktoberfest – it is a huge thing…. but to be honest: a huge rip-off as well. Maybe as I was born and raised in this wonderful big village called Munich… and I remember the times when family met at the Oktoberfest, everybody brining food from home and just getting some beers and having a good time. Nowadays they almost lynch you when you try to bring a bretzel you bought outside into one of the beer tents…. BUT: there is a lot of other really good smaller beer-festivals around in summer and fall… like the Gäubodenfest in lower Bavaria – among us aboriginies by far one of the best!

        And Turkey: well, I’d say west of Ankara absolutely safe, but the places I loved so much like Agri, Van, Doyoubagazit, Erzurum etc. – not quite sure… at least for the way I like to travel there: motorbike and wild camping 🙂

        I will try to locate the Isaan-place with the Tuk-Tuk-restroom with my local friend next time and share – my pleasure.

        Found a nice place The Chaliang last time about 3 weeks ago. Have been there during soccer worldchampionship 2010 with local friends for some beer and sports (ha! we watched the Germany-Serbia game…. and Germany lost…. how funny!). Its now newly renovated – very nice!

        Take care Kevin, have a great start into 2012!
        Cheers
        Chris

        Reply
        • December 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm
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          Hey Chris,

          I already suspected that maybe Oktoberfest was a bit overdone. I had heard about expensive and restrictive tents. Ah well, I’d prefer to join some locals in brining food and heading to a good smaller fest anyway. 🙂

          In my hometown of Madison we have a very nice fest the 2nd Saturday of August: Great Taste of the Midwest. The local homebrewers guild brings together over 120 microbrewers only from Midwestern USA and they offer unlimited samples of maybe 700 beers of all sorts of styles. It’s fantastic and the whole weekend turns into a beer event even outside the festival. Tickets go on sale May 1 and usually sell out by the end of that day. It’s a very bad time to be a liver. Lol.

          I have never been east in Turkey, unfortunately. Trabzon in the north and Antakya in the south are my easternmost points (not so far east). Maybe some day.

          See you in Thailand in 2012? (Or Bavaria?) Have a Happy New Year!

          Cheers,

          Kevin

          Reply
        • December 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm
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          Hey Chris, I just looked up Gäubodenfest. 2012 is the 200-year anniversary! Really?!? Don’t you think now I MUST go?? 🙂

          Reply
  • January 1, 2012 at 6:48 am
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    Hi Kevin,
    Happy New Year! Just health and happiness!

    Yep, I think its a pretty good reason 🙂
    If I am in country it would be my pleasure to have a beer or two… Don’t know as I got a projetct in Thailand running and 2012 will be almost half-half for Asia and Germany.

    Cheers
    Chris

    P.S.: in ten days going for a long weekend to Istanbul for a birthday party …. Looking much forward to that!

    Reply
  • January 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm
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    Kevin,

    I would love to share a few beers and stories…. seems we got some similar non-curable crazy attitudes…. this perfect mixture of loving food, beer, people, home, leaving for a trip, longing to get back home….and just loving other people not matter where they are from…

    my dates for Thailand are: 16-20 Feb in BKK, 12-20 or 22nd April (damned – I am gonna hit Songkran… but no other flights on mileage in April…. grrrr!) and end of June (will depend on my travel schedule with a conference in Shanghai)…. Wow, that Madison microbrew mayhem sounds perfect for a bavarian guy! Would love to get there! Lets see!

    If my project in Thailand is going to work (inshallah…:))), I will probably be there for the start on a monthly basis… we should be able to make it somehow.

    take care – cheers
    Chris

    Reply
    • January 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm
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      Super! I’ll be there already for a wedding on Feb 17. We can also talk Wisconsin beer tour for you. Festival or no, there’s a lot going on here brew-wise. Are you on Facebook? Look me up or email me revtravel [a t] yahoo

      Maybe head to the Beer Vault in BKK that weekend. Cheers!

      K

      Reply
  • January 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm
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    …and btw: my present next week to my turkish friends….????

    The Yogurt Man Cometh

    They will laugh their a….. off, am sure!

    Reply
    • January 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm
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      Yeah, Turks generally really enjoy it. Had one at a Turkish-American reading group presentation in Florida present me his lengthy handwritten points of contention on a variety of little details. The rest of the group felt otherwise and we all got a kick out of it. I still have that letter. He didn’t hate the book or anything, just a bit of a pedantic old fellow and you could tell he really relished the chance to go through his list. Lol.

      Reply
  • January 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm
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    hej – just got your message… we will definitely make it for a beer or two!! Thats great news!
    this WE will be pretty busy, but we should def meet! maybe a daytime drink at JJ market or I can extend to 21st or come early – how long will you be in BKK?

    am not a facebook trooper ;), but use pumpkin2035@hotmail.com – got this one on my private BBs 🙂

    …and yess! Madison is on my list! for sure!

    Reply
  • January 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm
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    …oh Kevin, I am sure my friends will love it. We will party in Kadiköy and they are absolutely funny-crazy people…. the most important: a well-dosed self-humor….

    Reply
  • March 14, 2012 at 9:14 am
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    Dear Chris and Kevin,

    Sorry for interrupting your conversation:) but i have things to say to both of you!

    Dear Chris, thank you for advising the book“the yogurt man cometh”.. you gave me the book a month ago but just finished it.

    Dear Kevin, i have been in most of the places you visited in Turkey, the way you told your experiences was very funny and different – totally correct. I enjoyed reading it.

    about your plans for a beer and chat, i would love to join you whenever it is held in istanbul.
    ece

    Reply
  • March 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm
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    Hello you two !

    sounds great this plan of some Efes and Raki someday in Turkey….

    @Kevin: enjoy your days in Asia – here spring has arrived with sunshine and 20°C – yay!

    @Ece: thanks so much for your feed-back on the book – I knew you would like it 😉 Have a great weekend!

    Cheers
    Chris

    Reply

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